scaffolding
Taking an all or nothing approach to digital transformation results in so many more points of potential failure PHOTO: Dan Gold

It is now more than 20 years since the first document management and enterprise content management systems appeared in the enterprise. The aim was getting a better handle on content and the many content silos across the organization. Once all that content was organized, it was thought, that content could be used to improve processes and even, although this was a longer-term objective, automate processes.

New Technology Problems

That was then and this is now, and things are infinitely more complex. The difference now is that digital transformation, developing better digital experiences and digitally literate customers that insist on superlative experiences are all factors in forcing organizations to turn to new technologies to ensure that their clients don’t jump ship and sign-up with competitors.

Among those new technologies are machine learning, artificial intelligence that is entering second generation, and chatbots, those seemingly harmless bots that have, or at least should, have access to all an organization’s data. And guess what? The new technologies are exposing problems that should have been solved all those years ago.

Lisa Trager is president of New York City-based Content in Motion. She helps organizations develop and execute digital strategies for an omnichannel world and has led enterprise initiatives for clients in the telecommunications, healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial, consumer goods and government sectors.

The problem, as she sees it, is developing content strategies for everything including better digital and customer experiences. She also has a unique perspective on the content problem, which she compares with some of the elements of yoga. Speaking at the Simplermedia DX Summit in Chicago, she explained that she started her yoga practice about 15-years-ago just after she had moved to digital and was seeing overlaps in the way people were talking about developing good digital experiences -  things like observation or showing empathy. “The reason they [yoga elements] evolved was to make better lives, to connect with people and the obstacles in their own life. So, if we think of awareness, empathy, balance, these are all things that we as practioneers need to be developing in constructing good customer experience as well,” she said.

“It’s all about how people to react things in the brain, in the heart, even though it’s very technical if you don’t create a good customer experience you can certainly see the reaction in the voice of the customer in all the channels.”

Companies Shouldn’t Shout At Customers

Companies are starting to understand that they can’t shout at people and it’s taken them a long time to understand that they need to listen more. That takes transformation in the organization itself with the right people in the right roles to do both frontend and backend things to make it viable. “One of the areas where I see deficiencies a lot is in the area of content engineering because people think of content strategy as more of a marketing thing,” she added. “However, in order to have an omnichannel world we need to have more consistency in the messaging across channels so that customer gets the consistent answer they seek.”

And we are back to the starting point, notably content. She pointed out that most organizations don’t really understand what a content strategy is. If they have people with that role its generally in marketing and copy writing roles and it’s rare that you have people that are dedicated to content operations.

Importance Of Taxonomy

In this context a content strategy is the ability to have people in place who will start to define the categories or the taxonomy of the content so that you can then develop the labels. “Even AI, and bots, those dumb bots, to latch onto things and to understand semantically what the human is after. So, content operations, content engineering these for me are pivotal,” she said.

The problem, she added, is that we haven’t gotten our head around, or haven’t been able to sell to the highest-level decision makers the need to invests in the foundational elements of. “Everyone is seeking the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence, but we don’t even have the taxonomy in place.”

Indeed, taxonomy, or the lack of it and a cohesive content strategy is also crippling one of elements that enterprises are trying to use now to solve the problem of bringing content into organizational processes. That element is artificial intelligence and its obvious digital manifestation, notably chatbots.

Seth Earley is founder and CEO of Carlisle, Mass.based Earley Information Science. With 25 years’ experience in knowledge strategy, data and information architecture, Earley has been working with enterprises on taxonomy and other content related problems, including chatbots.

Role Of Chatbots

“Chatbots are a channel, they are a channel to information and knowledge. They are a retrieval mechanism just like search and, in fact, what a lot of chatbots are doing in cognitive technologies and AI technologies are doing for organizations is getting them to pay more attention to how they are writing content and for whom,” he said.

For organizations chatbots are meeting the customer where they want to meet and people are using them on mobile devices, as an extension of themselves. “It’s really a lifestyle issues, people have them with them all the time, they are checking them all the time, so we have to have the ability to interact with the customer wherever they are,” he said.

Building A Knowledge Scaffolding

If you think chatbots are going to be effective, think about search and whether search is effective in the enterprise. A lot of time, Earley points out, search doesn’t work because the content is poorly curated, poorly structured and you end up with a list of documents when all you’re really wanted was an answer. “Fixing search is part of the process. Organizations are not really understanding that this and chatbots are part of the same continuum around information retrievable. So, search is a retrieval mechanism, a chatbot is a retrieval mechanism and they run on many of the same principles, which organizations are having hard time grasping,” he added.

To solve it, what needs to happen is that organizations need to have a framework, a knowledge scaffolding upon which they can structure that knowledge, even if it is living in difference places. Organizations are starting to have that core realization that they are competing on information. “I like to hold up my cell phone like a magical device and say it’s made of sand metal and oil and very clearly arranged. There is a lot of information in there and that’s what our world is…it’s made up of information,” he said.

So, should we be using AI all. Are we ready for it? Earley pointed out that there is a lot of aspirational capabilities out there in terms of the technology and there are a lot of people selling things they don’t understand, a lot of people buying things they don’t understand. “There are couple of things with this: you can’t automate a mess, you can’t automate something that you don’t understand,” he added.

 The purpose of these technologies is to reduce the cognitive load on the user, to make it simpler. to do that you need to understand the user, you need to understand the process, you need to understand the content — machines can’t do that by themselves